Gen Z kids are using fake Instagram accounts to share their real selves
This is the era to ‘be yourself.’ But confronted with social media, the implicit message is instead to be ‘liked’ by as many people as possible, ideally as a photographer and an uncertified expert in food, health and beauty.
It’s difficult as a regular ole Snorlax, waking up to scroll through your Instagram feed at 10am, being slapped in the face with images of acquaintances wearing silk camis at rooftop bars, dancing to EDM at music festivals, expressing gratitude for the ‘small things’ and always being #blessed. Not to mention seeing the Instagram stars you follow enjoying baked fig and ricotta cheese spreads at rustic cafés and raising perfect children who don’t need an orthodontist.
There is a world of difference between life on Insta and life on lock screen, and many of us experience an Essena O’Neill moment, wondering how to quit social media. However, teenagers have discovered a trendy way to stay on social media without feeling like they’re missing out or falling behind.
According to Urban Dictionary, a “Finstagram, finsta for short, is a mixture of Fake & Instagram. People, usually girls, get a second Instagram account along with their real instagrams (rinstagrams,) to post any pictures or videos they desire. The photos or videos posted are usually funny or embarrassing and only your closest friends follow this account.”
Typical Finsta posts include unattractive selfies, rants about daily life, screenshots of text conversations and inside jokes. The camera angle can be whacky, the topic insignificant, and the overall impression is a life fraught with downs as well as ups. You can disobey social media norms, posting more than once a day, refusing to add people who’ve added you, and posting scandalous pictures without your family finding out.
‘Finsta’ gives a whole new meaning to #nofilter. It’s no longer about not applying a photographic filter to enhance your photo (and, by extension, your life), but breaking the unspoken rules of Instagram without fear of being judged. A ‘fake’ instagram account offers a chance to be real.
Of course, the popularity of Finsta does not mean Gen Z are neglecting their more carefully managed Rinsta, or Real Instagram accounts, which have far more followers. When they take an aesthetically pleasing picture, Rinsta is the destination. Finsta is just an additional creative space for a different kind of content. This phenomenon shows how not only brands are tailoring their content to specific audiences, but Gen Z is tailoring their own content too.
Finsta offers intimacy and acceptance in the face of public scrutiny and judgment. Like any image on Rinsta, there is a risk that images shared on Finsta could be captured with a screenshot and republished against the photographer’s wishes. But there is a code of trust for the close group of friends who follow your Finsta, and they could care less if your post isn’t perfectly polished. These are people who know you as you really are. They will empathize with you, laugh with you, double tap and comment. The pressure to be perfect is lifted from your shoulders, and you’re free to be yourself, safe from judgment.
So, what can brands learn from Finsta and its popularity?
The point of Finsta is to be funny, witty and carefree. It’s this tone that Gen Z is responding to. You don’t have to be a try-hard, choosing the perfect selfie from among hundreds, using other photo apps to edit them, and making sure that the final product is in line with the pastel color theme you chose when you decided to get popular. Gen Z are people with real experiences who know that life is unlike the curated Insta accounts on their Discover pages.
While we are all still perfecting our personal brands, the need to connect authentically is equally important. Similarly, we seek meticulous branding from brands, but we also have a need to connect with them on a deeper level. With Gen Z so heavily influenced by the power of Snapchat, there is a desire for content that feels more real and in the moment. Influencers are already experimenting with dual channels for these different types of content. Photographer and Youtuber Ben Brown has two Instagram accounts, “a main account” and one that's “just for fun”. Brands could explore having two sides as well; in order to resonate with duplicitous Janus faced Gen Z lives.
If the new trend in the beauty world is the ‘natural look’ and ‘no-makeup-makeup,’ the new trend on social media is spontaneous and #unfiltered content. To be more approachable to young audiences, a brand may not need to share only images of perfection. Instead, they may need to shed some seriousness and focus more on the #real moments in life — like Charmin and Taco Bell on Twitter.
What if Nike had a Finsta? As opposed to professionally color-corrected images of victorious athletes, what if they showed us their errors and losses? What if the subject of the image wrote the caption him or herself? Such content would tap into Gen Z’s way of expressing themselves. It will make the brand feel more real, accessible and authentic. Gen Z has showed us that they want to be talked to the way they talk to their bffs, and that it’s time for a life less filtered.
- Article by Ana Turco-Rivas and Tina Cho